Many of us experience cheese from the supermarket, either from the dairy aisle, or even if it’s from the gourmet section, it's cut into wedges and wrapped tight in plastic. I am a huge fan of those bags of pre-shredded cheese, and couldn't do without them on busy weekennight. But when you are putting together a fantastic cheese platter for entertaining, then you'll want to explore a bit further.
If you have the chance to visit a cheese making dairy farm with your kids, it’s an amazing experience. Following the process from milk to cheese with your kids will give them (and you, you can bet on it!) a newfound appreciation for how cheese is made, especially artisanal cheeses. Or have them ask a cheese make some questions at a farmers market, or even visit a real cheese shop, or the cheese counter at a high end supermarket. Most cheesemongers are very knowledgeable, happy to answer questions, and always glad to offer samples to a budding turophile!
This is a very accessible, but still very sophisticated, cheese platter with four quite different cheeses, so you can get a nice variety. The descriptions srtart with the cheese on the bottom right, and move counterclockwise. If you taste in this order, the cheeses move from milder to stronger, which is how most cheese professionals advise tasting a progression of cheese to experience the fullest flavor of each.
- Fromager D' Affinois My family loves nothing more than a runny, creamy cheese, and this one had us grabbing for the knife. Its flavor is very mild, and buttery is the best way to describe it, in both texture and flavor. It's a double crème, but if you are familiar with soft cheese you will think it has more of the texture of a triple crème, even though its fat content is a bit lower. The rind is gentle in both flavor and texture – if you are trying to get your kids to understand that not only is it okay to eat the rind, it’s delicious (and preferable to the rest of the crowd, who don’t want to see a scoop of soft cheese on the serving platter), this is a great cheese to use to make that point. It also comes in a version with a little sprinkling of truffles throughout (the flavor is very delicate, not overpowering at all), and a garlic herb variety.
- Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche This is an aged goat cheese that has won many awards, and many more fans, from a New England goat cheese virtuouso. It gets its inspiration from the cheese of the Loire Valley cheeses of France. Bonne Bouche means “good mouth” and that is an accurate description of how you will feel after tasting it. The ashy rind is super light and because it’s not aged for very long, it has a mild, pleasant yeast flavor. The creamy interior gets softer and more flavorful as it ages. A few slices of prosciutto and some chunks of baguette are fantastic with this cheese.
- Uplands Cheese, Pleasant Ridge Reserve This award-winning cheese is made in the tradition of Alpine cheeses like Gruyere and Beaufort. It is made only in the months from May through October when the cows are able to eat fresh pasture, since the producers credit the grass-fed raw milk from which the cheese is made for its singular flavor. Some years they are able to make more cheese than others; that’s just part of the way they produce their product. It’s a very accessible cheese, both in texture and flavor.
- Castello Danish Blue Traditional Cheese lovers always feel that no cheese board is complete without a blue cheese. This is a classic, full-strength blue, sharply piquant and slightly salty. Think about serving this with figs, pears, olives, nuts and a full-flavored bread.